Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Happy May Day! (that is to say, the real ‘Labor Day’)

“The struggle for the 8-hour day reached a significant moment on May 1, 1886 as the Knights of Labor and numerous other labor organizations called for a national work stoppage on this day to demand that the 8-hour day become the law of the land. Thousands of workplaces shutdown across the country and capital trembled. Linked to the issue of shorter hours was the question of child labor as depicted in this 1908 Lewis Hine photo of a few of the doffers and sweepers in the Mollahan Mills in Newberry, South Carolina. In the U.S. serious legislation governing the hours of work and child labor was a long, long time coming as workers fought and died well into the 1930s before an upsurge in organization pressured the government into making a handful of modest reforms.”—From the Facebook page of the Bread & Roses Centennial (1912-2012) Committee.

Prior May Day posts (including an historical introduction to the holiday in the first of the two links are here and here.
Several years ago ago at Slate, Robert Pinsky discussed two poems by William Blake that serve to fill out the meaning of this holiday, both titled “The Chimney Sweeper,” from Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794) respectively.


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